Move Over Lawyers, The Creatives Have Arrived

Posted by Sasha on Monday, December 16th, 2013

As we approach the New Year, I have some good news for us creative types: the Conceptual Age is here, and it’s here to stay. Growing up, it was difficult being the “creative” in a family of mostly “knowledge workers” (doctors, lawyers, etc.). Whenever I tried to explain what I wanted to do in my career (create theme park attractions), I was met with worried faces and well-meaning attempts to define my interests in more concrete ways. In college, when I tried to “normalize” my ambitions by pursuing something more clear-cut, the best I could do was study filmmaking (you know, because that’s such a straight-and-narrow career path). I eventually returned to my original dream of being in themed entertainment and forged my own way into the industry – with little academic or societal encouragement. If only I had had Daniel Pink’s book “A Whole New Mind.” It would have been nice to have some scholarly validation for my creative and empathic strengths.

Pink’s book helped me understand why being a creative wasn’t celebrated while I was growing up: In the 90’s (when I was a kid) we were still in the Information Age, which prized knowledge workers and left-brain thinking. Today, however, we are in the Conceptual Age where there is increasing demand for right-brain thinkers like me: “The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind — creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers…artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, and big picture thinkers will reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys,” explains Pink.

These visuals summarize the evolution of ages:

Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind, Figure 3.1 p. 49

Daniel Pink's A Whole New Mind, Figure 3.2 p. 50

According to Pink, the transition from the Information to the Conceptual Age is due to abundance, Asia and automation: 1) Abundance of products and choices has made product design integral to market success (when there are hundreds of options, it’s mostly the design that makes us pick one brand over another). But prosperity has not been fulfilling, leading to a cultural trend of searching for meaning, transcendence and purpose. Adding to this is 2) Asia and 3) automation, which are pushing information-based jobs overseas or to computers. As Pink summarizes, “Mere survival today depends on being able to do something that overseas knowledge workers can’t do cheaper, that powerful computers can’t do faster, and that satisfies one of the nonmaterial, transcendent desires of an abundant age.”

In the Conceptual Age, “high concept” and “high touch” abilities are key: “High concept involves the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, to detect patterns and opportunities, to craft a satisfying narrative, and to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into a novel invention. High touch involves the ability to empathize, to understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in one’s self and to elicit it in others, and to stretch beyond the quotidian, in pursuit of purpose and meaning.” This boils down to 6 key right-brain aptitudes that Pink believes are crucial to succeeding in the Conceptual Age: Symphony (putting pieces together and seeing the big picture), Design, Story, Empathy, Play, and Meaning.

Pink’s words are music to my ears. If you’re like me and are in themed entertainment or another creative / design-related field, you can probably relate to feeling a bit isolated as a creative type (at least before the 21st Century). But the Conceptual Age is our playground. We were born understanding symphony, design, story, empathy, play and meaning. Not only will our aptitudes become more and more culturally acceptable, but they will also become more and more economically necessary. In 2014 we can look forward to a year of continued demand for our right-brain strengths and watch as more industries bow down to the power of high concept and high touch abilities.

Wishing you a creative and conceptually powerful New Year,

Sasha Bailyn
Editor-In-Chief
sasha@entertainmentdesigner.com

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